Prickly Water Lily: A Gateway to Healthy Snacking

Prickly water lily, known as “fox nuts” in the United States and “Phool makhana” in South Asia, is a delicious and healthy snack. It’s not only eaten on its own, but it’s also used in sweet and savory dishes in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Keep on reading for more interesting information on prickly water lilies. 

What are Prickly Water Lilies?

Prickly water lily (Euryale Ferox), is a type of water lily belonging to the genus Euryale, that produces edible seeds known as fox nuts or gorgon nuts. When dried, these nuts are a popular food that’s eaten all over Asia; they can be served either raw or cooked. Prickly water lily plants grow underwater, usually in ponds and wetlands. 

Prickly water lilies are the only existing species of Euryale that are easily propagated from seed. The leaves float on the surface of the water and are round and large, usually 4 to 5 feet long, with a quilted texture. These lilies have attractive purple flowers that produce seeds called fox nuts. The seeds are green, round, and olive-shaped, and are always picked in late summer and early autumn. After the crop harvest, the seeds go through a process of sun-drying, followed by roasting. The roasted seeds become white, fluffy, crunchy, and a delicious snack on their own. 

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Although this plant has been grown and eaten in China for centuries, prickly water lilies are native to eastern and southern Asia and are found locally in Korea, Japan, as well as some parts of Russia.

What Do Fox Nuts Taste Like?

Since foxnuts have a neutral and slightly nutty taste, they easily absorb the flavor of ingredients they’re cooked with. Their texture is firm, starchy, and crunchy, making them an ideal component for snacking on.

Lotus Seeds Vs Water Lily Seeds

Lotus seeds are often confused with water lily seeds because they both are similar in appearance and taste, however, they come from two completely different plants. While water lily seeds come from the Euryale Ferox plant and are called makhana in India, lotus seeds are from the Nelumbo nucifera plant and are known as Nelumbo in India. Similarly, water lily seeds pop up when they are roasted, unlike lotus seeds, and are mostly sold roasted or dried, for use in cooking.

Image Credit: Flickr user tanakawho ( CC BY-NC 2.0 )

Cooking with Fox Nuts 

The leaves and stems of prickly water lilies are edible and can be used in soups, stews, and curries. The seeds, on the other hand, are of great culinary importance in South Asian cuisine. They are often roasted to make them pop much like popcorn. Popped fox seeds are addictively crunchy to munch on and are regarded as a healthy tea-time snack in India. You can roast the seeds in butter or oil for a good ten to twelve minutes followed by a generous sprinkle of your favorite seasonings. Here is a complete guide for candied nuts that’ll work equally well for yielding sweet-spicy, and crunchy fox nuts.

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Roasted whole foxnuts not only make a great addition to charcuterie boards, but they also impart a hearty texture to breakfast bowls, energy bars, bread, and puddings. Fox nuts pair exceptionally well with cashews, almonds, coconut flakes, pecans, peanuts, jaggery, and caramel sauces. Try adding a handful of popped fox nuts into our recipes for Nutty Bars, Caramel Apple Bars, and Pecan Pie Bars for more crunch. 

In Indian cuisine, fox nuts are used to prepare several savory recipes including palak makhana (spinach and fox nut curry), makhana sabzi (fox nuts with vegetables), and creamy makhana curry. You can make your palak makhana by swapping paneer for fox nuts in our recipe for Palak Paneer. Cantonese cuisine widely uses fox nuts in soups along with pieces of meat, lotus seeds, and dates. Some people also use ground fox nuts for making tea, milkshakes, as well as cooking flour for bread, dosas, and pancakes.

Image Credit: Thu Truong from Pixabay 

Feature Image: 41330 from Pixabay 

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